94 Egyptian Art
§ iv. The Army of the Dead
The mortuary temples of the pyramids and the groups of
mastaba shrines in the royal burial-places are peopled by a whole
throng of life-like statues. Priests and relatives would come to
visit them on days of festival, and for these statues they would
perform customary rites, for by a magical ceremony the souls
of the departed had been attached to them.
Frequently made of some extremely hard substance, which
ensured their durability, these statues were at most periods, if
not all, the work of anonymous sculptors. They were enclosed,
as a rule, in small chambers, known as serdabs, whose only com-
munication with the outside world was through a. narrow
Some of these portrait statues rank among the unquestioned
masterpieces of Egyptian art. In the series of kings, the diorite
statue of Chephren, the triads of Mycerinus and the remark-
able copper effigy of Pepi I are sufficient proof of this.
It is possible that ritual images of the dead were originally
made of wood, covered with painted stucco, and resembling
closely the living being; inlaid eyes added still further to the
illusion. The best known example, that of the Sheikh-el-Beled
in Cairo, is sufficient in itself to prove the perfection attained
by this vigorous and naturalistic art.
Important personages represented in this way were shown
either standing, as in the case of Ranufer and Ti, or sitting,
as in that of Rahotep and Nofret. Sometimes they are seated
on the ground, in the attitude of the Scribe.
At the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty it was usual to place
a sculptured head, sometimes called a 'reserve head', in the
shaft leading to the burial chamber. The finest examples are tc
be seen in Cairo, Boston, and Vienna (Figs. 2 and 3). Thej
reproduce, with an intensity of expression which has rarely beer
surpassed, the actual features of various members of the family